Late deluge brings Bihar to knees, floods east UP
Hospitals were waterlogged, hundreds, including Deputy CM were rescued.Updated: Oct 01, 2019 06:06 IST
A late September torrential deluge pummeled large swathes of eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar over the past 72 hours as flood waters swamped government offices, inundated hospital wards and marooned the houses of senior politicians. The death toll across four states stood at 138 on Monday.
The worst hit was Bihar’s capital Patna, where 1.6 million of its two million residents battled water-logging, said the state disaster relief office, exposing the city’s poor drainage and infrastructure system. Many residents said they were forced to live with no power or phone lines for two days as rising waters snapped communication lines and electricity supply.
The showers in the city were the second heaviest in 50 years and the weather office said the bulk of the September’s rainfall was received in the past week.
“The situation is unprecedented. It is like a cloudburst,” said SN Pradhan, director of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF).
Bihar deputy chief minister Sushil Modi and his family were among 4,000 people rescued by relief personnel. Modi was seen being taken in an orange, inflatable rubber boat along with other people. Water also made its way into the residences of former chief ministers Satendra Narayan Singh and Jitan Ram Manjhi.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he spoke to chief minister Nitish Kumar about the floods. “Agencies are working with local administration to assist the affected. Centre stands ready to provide all possible further assistance that may be required,” the PM tweeted.
Television visuals showed people wading through waist-deep water on arterial roads and flyovers partially submerged. Inflatable boats plied in several upmarket neighbourhoods to rescue marooned residents as power connections were snapped.
“Nothing is working,” said Rajeshwar Rai, a retired engineer of Hanuman Nagar, one of the worst-affected localities. “There is no power since it started raining heavily. With water level rising, poisonous reptiles are crawling inside my home room, forcing my family to vacate.”
In some parts of the city, residents resorted to JCB machines owned by the municipal corporation as buses and cars sank in the swirling flood waters. “We are rescuing people from several flood-affected areas here. We are trying to help the stranded senior citizens and patients by extending help,” said the JCB driver.
Gaurav Raj, a resident of Nala Road, said they were forced to live for three days with no drinking water. “Communication and power is also affected for the two days. Drainage is choked and thus water-logging level is rising.”
At least 15 other districts – most of them in north Bihar -- were marooned after being pounded by rainfall over the weekend, which claimed 32 lives. “I have never seen such flooding in my lifetime,” said Rajiv Trivedi, a resident of SK Puri of Patna. He had to shift to the first floor of his house as the ground floor was inundated.
The deluge damaged embankments in Nalanda and Jehanabad districts even as the Ganga, which passes through 12 districts in the state, continued to flow over the danger mark.
The floods triggered a political slugfest on a day Nitish Kumar held a meeting with district magistrates via video conferencing.
“The way floods have been dealt with shows the failure of Nitish Kumar government,” tweeted Tejashwi Yadav of the principal opposition party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD). But state water minister Sanjay Jha hit back and blamed the Opposition of politicising a natural calamity. “It’s a devastating natural calamity. The government is doing its best and I am personally monitoring the relief work,” said Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who is also Patna Sahib Lok Sabha member.
The Patna Municipal Corporation said it has deployed 38 sump pumps to remove water.
The summer monsoon, which accounts for almost 75% of the country’s annual rainfall, begins in June and starts to retreat by early September, but heavy to very heavy rainfall has continued across parts of the country this year, triggering floods in many low-lying areas. Over the past 72 hours, deaths have been reported in Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Jharkhand, other than Bihar.
In eastern Uttar Pradesh, the Ganga was flowing above the danger mark in Ghazipur and Ballia, where authorities had to shift about 900 inmates of the district jail to other jails after flood waters entered their barracks. The meteorological department has forecast more rains and thundershowers in several areas of the state on Tuesday. The Uttar Pradesh government said at least 100 people had died since Thursday with hundreds of houses and settlements washed away and many more falling prey to snakebites and wall collapses.
Climate expert Dinesh Mishra said the flooding in Patna was due to unscientific planning and lack of accountability. “Drains are constructed with no planning. They [administration] planned for the low lying areas on the floods plains of Ganga, but had no plan for a situation when water level in Ganga would rise,” he said.
(With inputs from agencies)